Izhevsk, Russia, September 10, 2019
An icon with particles of the relics of the Russian New Martyrs Sts. Nikolai Chernishev and his daughter Barbara from Votkinsk was ceremoniously gifted to a parish of the Orthodox Church in America in California on Sunday.
The solemn event took place following the Divine Liturgy at the Archangel Michael Cathedral in Izhevsk. The relics were given to Fr. Edward Henderson, rector of the Church of St. John the Baptist in Berkeley, California (OCA Western American Diocese), who was visiting the area for several days, by Izhevsk Dean Archpriest Roman Voskresensky, reports the press service of the Izhevsk and Udmurtia Diocese.
Handing him the icon with the relics, Fr. Roman asked Fr. Edward to tell about the life of his parish in Berkeley, where there are many parishioners from Votkinsk, who preserved the memory of Sts. Nikolai and Barbara throughout the past century.
udmeparhia.ru Fr. Edward explained that the St. John parish was founded nearly 100 years ago when many people from Votkinsk, who had participated in the Izhevsk-Votkinsk revolution of 1918, emigrated and settled in California and founded the church. They kept the memory of the revolt alive, during which Sts. Nikolai and Barbara were given over to martyrdom, passing it onto their children.
Several members of the parish were involved in collecting information about the lives of Sts. Nikolai and Barbara towards their canonization, which took place in March 2018. Their glorification was liturgically proclaimed in August 2018 in the Annunciation Cathedral in the city of Votkinsk.
Fr. Edward also emphasized the importance of the day’s events, as his parishioners greatly venerate the holy Votkinsk martyrs.
Preaching on the occasion of their glorification, His Eminence Metropolitan Viktorin of Izhevsk and Udmurtia recalled the memory of the revolt and of the holy martyrs:
It was in this month, in August, exactly 100 years ago that the saints consciously took up their Cross and consciously went to this Golgotha, and the Lord granted them crowns. On the feast of the Transfiguration, in 1918, the workers of the Votkinsk plant rebelled against the Bolshevik government, gaining the first victory over the Red troops… I am sure that from the ambo of this church Fr. Nikolai pastorally exhorted and strengthened all the workers who came to the defense of the Motherland. Unfortunately, such commotion later spilled over into a terrible fratricidal civil war.
Archpriest Nikolai Chernishev served as a priest of what is today known as Udmurtia, east of Kazan, from 1914 until his death in 1919. He was repeatedly awarded by diocesan authorities for his impeccable service to the Orthodox Church. He founded the local Sobriety Society with the blessing of St. John of Kronstadt.
Fr. Nikolai had four children. Having been widowed at a young age, he lived with his youngest daughter Barbara who intentionally did not marry so as to remain with her father.
In August 1918, many workers of the area rose up against the Soviet authorities, but, despite the danger, Fr. Nikolai remained at his parish, admonishing the perishing, and inspiring his flock. His daughter Barbara meanwhile served the suffering as a sister of mercy.
The revolt was put down by the Red Army. An anti-religious debate was soon held in the local cathedral, with Fr. Nikolai giving a defense of the faith. He was arrested the next day. His daughter clung to him so tightly that she had to be arrested with him as well. Witnesses attest that Fr. Nikolai remained calm, prayerful, and faithful while in prison. He even asked for a stole to be brought to him so he could hear the confessions of his fellow prisoners.
Archpriest Nikolai and his daughter Barbara were shot on January 2, 1919 (new style). Before his execution, Fr. Nikolai was required to move his cross, but he objected, “I am going to die, then you can remove it.” They were both buried in the cemetery at the Transfiguration Cathedral. Their graves have become a place of veneration and there are instances of miraculous help by the prayers of Fr. Nikolai for overcoming alcoholism.